syndicate bust

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Scores of unsuspecting people have been fleeced of more than R2million by a cheque fraud syndicate - aided by Telkom and the employees of major banks.

The syndicate also produces IDs and birth certificates.

The existence of the syndicate came to light when two men were arrested on Friday at a house in Protea, Soweto.

Police said they were looking for 30 more people believed to be part of the syndicate

The two were arrested after the crime intelligence and tracing unit pounced on them and found them in possession of machines used to produce fraudulent documents.

The unit had started their investigation about five months ago.

"We are aware that there is an operation in Namibia," police spokesman Captain Mpande Khoza said. "We are investigating the possibility that the operations extend to other countries."

Used cheques, newly produced cheques, blank IDs and certificates were found at the house.

Khoza said: "This syndicate is run by foreign nationals who are well connected. They are working with people in Telkom, the banks and everywhere else.

"They have an employee at the bank who transports used bank cheques.

"He gives them these cheques and they reproduce them. They are also able to check how much the account holder has.

"They have the original paper used to print cheques. The paper is not sold to anyone, so someone must have given it to them.

"A Telkom operator, who is also part of the syndicate, diverts calls from the account holder's phone to syndicate members' phones.

"When a bank teller calls to verify personal information the call goes through to their phones and the cheque is processed," Khoza said.

The two are expected to appear in the Johannesburg commercial crimes court today.